Koch according to Win8 Narrator.

I had a Win8 Slate in the office today, testing it out for students with accessibility needs. I was amused when hitting the Sydney Morning Herald website who had posted a story about TV presenter – David Koch who had voiced his opinion about breast feeding mothers.

Accessbility? Why to do it, how to do it.

One of the common questions people have in preparing learning materials is also the one they tend to skip over when no immediate yes/no is to be had.

Why accessibility matters to all teachers

Creating content comes with responsibility – The Australian legislation pertaining to equal rights of access for all is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992. The Blind Citizens of Australia site has an online copy-and-paste email format for lodging an inaccessible web site complaint under the DDA to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC). The applicability of the DDA legislation to internet websites was tested and proven back in 2000, with the case of Bruce Lindsay Maguire v Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games which Maguire won. The ‘industry standard’ guidelines for web accessibility is conformance and validation to W3C accessibility checklist guidelines.

How to create accessible content

PAC is a recommended set of criteria from World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0

  1. Document is marked as tagged
  2. Document Title available
  3. Document Language defined
  4. Accessible Security Settings
  5. Tab follows Tag-Structure
  6. Consistent Heading Structure
  7. Bookmarks available
  8. Accessible Font Encodings
  9. Content completely tagged
  10. Logical Reading Order
  11. Alternative Text available
  12. Correct Syntax of Tags / Rolls
  13. Sufficient contrast for Text
  14. Spaces existent

There are several common problems with documents, most often in PDF documents which are the most widely used form of electronic distribution to students. Abobe has an excellent guide for authors which is free to download.

In addition, there is a pre-flight checklist which can be used before your course materials are presented to students. Why bother? Well, besides the legal and ethical requirements – many teachers have no idea whom will finally enroll on their course. Using a inner-self probability strategy is a bad way to address these responsibilities.

Pre-flight checklist

  1. If the document contains scanned text, apply Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
  2. Add author, title and subject and set the language in the document properties
  3. Tag the document to provide structure for remediation and support for bookmarks
  4. All documents should be structured so that an accessibility statement is the first text to be read aloud, to ensure the reader does not have to try and find it.
  5. Verify accessibility (see tool below)
  6. Verify and correct the Reading Order
  7. Add descriptive text to images or mark them as background
  8. Optimize the file size and set compatibility
  9. Redact all personal and private information
  10. Add bookmarks
  11. Verify accessibility (use software or contact someone who knows how)
  12. Does the linking page contain a link to download Adobe Reader
  13. Form fields, if used, are accessible.
  14. Descriptions must reflect the nature of the input and tab order must be set in a logical sequence.
  15. Security settings, if used, do not interfere with screen readers.

Test your PDF Documents

You can download this free tool to run over your documents, which will give you a report.

Accessible Gaming

Click here for plain text version of this post.

At a schools conference last week, I was asked about accessibility and gaming by a teacher who had a student who had suddenly lost vision following an accident. The student had been an avid computer and video game player.

While gaming from a stereo-typical stance requires adaptation, it isn’t out of bounds for people with disabilities. World of AbilityCraft is a great blog documenting one persons use of Warcraft. It’s not purley an info-blog, but has documented one person’s journey with some very powerful posts. According to PC World “Steve Spohn is wheelchair-bound, on a ventilator and can barely move because of muscular dystrophy, but he’s still able to play video games.” His Xbox controller was invented during a Hardware Hackers Challenge, a contest to build a handicap-accessible game controller in under two hours. Industry research has currently shows around 20% of game-players (and buyers) has some form of disability. This is no small figure, given the hundreds of millions (if not billions) of people who buy and play computer and video games.

Evil Controllers produces a range of modified console controllers. The Gaming Accessibility Guidelines provides invaluable information on the development and use of games from basic through to very complex. Game Accessibility is a very broad topic, which includes the challenges of age as well as more overt challenges. Website “Assistive Gaming” produces reviews of almost all the new titles for OSX. This shows how diverse the topic has become, with plenty of information for multiple platforms and game devices.

Games used as a way to learn, can appear quite simple, yet very effective. Many of the best selling games currently appear throw backs to the golden era of video arcades in the 1980s with simple sounds and graphics. Don’t discount them on the basis of appearance. For example, the website One Switch has a list of games which are accessible – in a library of games – some being very simple, though to being as complex as any high-street title.

Need some adaptive hardware to play? Check out Broadened Horizons for an amazing array for adaptive interface devices for video gaming – which in many instances are better controllers for fully-able players, due to often bad-design in the first place. Yes I’m looking at you Xbox D-Pad.

Game Informer recently wrote a fantastic piece on what it feels like to be a game with a disability. In it the author says ” trying to define game accessibility is like trying to nail Jello to the wall. Since each disabled gamer has different limitations, we all have slightly different definitions of what makes a game accessible.”

There is a strong case for gaming and there is no reason to believe that computer and video games are in-accessible. AbleGamers, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting the inclusion of accessibility in video games, rated Dragon Age: Origins the most accessible mainstream game in 2009 with a score of 9.8 out of 10.

There are devices, games, reviews and advice online to allow gaming to be included in the classroom. Not sure where to start – how about one of these six puzzle platformers …

Tandem Learning

I’ve been involved with an ambitious accessibility project in Indonesia. In short, if you have accessibility needs in Indonesia, even being colour blind, you will find it almost impossible to attend any form of consistent education, not least University. As many as 59% of Indonesian children with any sight impairment get no education at all.

MQAS is working hard to improve this. It’s not easy, but it’s massively rewarding to learn that our partner – Brawijaya University – has enrolled 10 students in under-graduate courses with disabilities – the first time ever. This is of course achieved by lobbying for funding, something that groups who work with disabilities know all about.

If you have ever met MQAS’ Sharon Kerr, you’ll know that there is no dream too big, and no high office that can’t have it’s doors opened. Getting students into University was step one. In the next few months, we’ll be working with 33 provinces, teaching teachers how to work with and teach people with disabilities. As if that wasn’t enough – we’re also starting generating ideas on how to get children with disabilities to school – even if that school is actually a University using technology.

One idea is “the tandem project”. If we can get 20 tandem bikes (lots of bikes in Indonesia, not many tandems), we can use them to get people with vision impairment to school in a peer-mentor program. This is perhaps the opposite of what might be expected from a technological solution. Perhaps we could just give them iPads – but they don’t have electricity reliably or the Internet in many cases.

The idea is to create geographic “bike-hubs” which act as classroom, perhaps makeshift, perhaps not. The essential ingredient is to have a socially inclusive classroom where fully able child can help another get to a place of learning. They not only learn together – they learn about each other shoulder to shoulder.

In many cases this might be for the first time ever for both of them. This makes it all the more remarkable that 10 students have been able to get into a University at all on their own merits – they have been taught by their communities alone and the photo here shows the volunteer mentors. That’s the key ‘volunteers’.

If we could get 20 tandem bikes in communities , it would  allow 40 students to study for less than the price of 10 iPads. So that’s one of the next missions – how to make this a reality for kids.

If you want to help, then get in touch – saving the world is a multi-player game.